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An altered book artist takes a book (old, new, recycled or multiple) and cuts, tears, glues, burns, folds, paints, adds to, collages, rebinds, gold-leafs, creates pop-ups, rubber-stamps, drills, bolts, and/or be-ribbons it. The artist may add pockets and niches to hold tags, rocks, ephemera, or other three-dimensional objects. Some change the shape of the book, or use multiple books in the creation of the finished piece of art.
Altered books may be as simple as adding a drawing or text to a page, or as complex as creating an intricate book sculpture. Antique or Victorian art is frequently used, probably because it is easier to avoid copyright issues. Altered books are shown and sold in art galleries and on the Internet.
An exhibition of altered books by contemporary artists was shown at the Bellevue Arts Museum in 2009, titled The Book Borrowers. It contained 31 works, books transformed into sculptural works. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center was to host an exhibition of altered books in early 2010.
An interesting example of sculpture-like altered books can be found in the mysterious paper sculptures left in various cultural institutions in Scotland, such as the Scottish Poetry Library and the National Library of Scotland.
Recycling old books and using them as art journals has also become popular with some art bloggers and proponents of upcycling.